On terrorism, feminism and A Voice for Men

As I write this, Boston police and others are scouring the Watertown area for a second suspect in the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon that left three dead and over 100 injured.  Last night they shot one of the suspects and are reported to be closing in on the other.

What’s most noteworthy at this point is that the two are brothers who seem to be of Chechen origin.  Now, what we don’t know about the two far surpasses what we do.  We don’t know if these two young men planted the bombs at the marathon or, if they did, why.  We’re not certain that they’re even from Chechnya and we certainly don’t know if they’re members of a Chechen separatist group.  After all, exactly what do Russia, Chechnya and the independence movement there have to do with the Boston Marathon?

What intrigues me though is that the backpack bombing of a public gathering place is very much the modus operandi of Chechen separatism.  That movement, that combats with terrorism the overwhelming force and brutality of the Russian military, long ago took its fight into Russia sending suicide bombers into cafes, airports, schools and the like.

Whether or not the young man sought by the Boston police is a Chechen separatist, the unfolding drama put me in mind of a piece I did for Glenn Sacks’ blog back in 2010. (1)  It was occasioned by the report by three researchers at the University of Chicago who’d just completed years of research into every single terrorist incident perpetrated by Chechen separatists since 2000.  There were 42 such incidents involving 63 perpetrators studied by Robert Pape, Lindsey O’Rourke and Jenna McDermit, and they revealed some interesting things that bear directly on some of A Voice for Men’s primary messages.

First, female terrorists turn out to be “deadlier than the male” variety.  Second, that’s because people generally see women as harmless and therefore allow them far greater freedom of movement than they do men, a fact that benefits any woman bent on mayhem.  Third, female terrorists and their families use shaming tactics against men to goad them into becoming terrorists.

Pape, et al have studied far more than just Chechen terrorism.  They’ve also studied terrorism in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, the West Bank, Sri Lanka and elsewhere.  Among Chechen terrorists, some 40% of the perpetrators were women.  Here’s what I wrote back in 2010.

[A]ttacks by women are deadlier than those carried out by men. Female terrorists kill an average of 21 people per attack versus only 13 for men. The bloodiest attack ever in the Chechen’s terrorist war against Russia – the coordinated bombing of two passenger flights that killed 90 people- was carried out by women. Plus, their deeds seem to be more effective at inspiring others. Pape, et al show that female terrorists use their femininity to shame males into participating in terrorist acts. They’ve also started a group called the “black widows,” in which women who’ve had a husband or other loved one killed or injured goad others to join the fight.

That people’s sexist attitude toward women – they’re harmless – allows female terrorists to be far more deadly than males was graphically illustrated by a Russian newspaper and reported by Pape, O’Rourke and McDermit.  In 2003 a Chechen suicide bomber walked into a Moscow café at peak hours with a bomb-laden pack strapped to her back.  Her attempt to detonate the device failed, the police were called and she was arrested.  So the Russian newspaper carried out a little experiment, described by Pape in the pages of the New York Times as follows:

[F]emale suicide attackers have one more advantage: They can often travel inconspicuously to their targets. A July 2003 investigative report by the Russian news magazine Kommersant-Vlast found that a potential female suicide bomber could easily avoid public suspicion. Just days after a Chechen suicide bomber, Zarema Muzhakhoyeva, tried but failed to blow up a Moscow cafe in 2003, one of the magazine’s journalists — wearing a niqab, tightly clutching a black satchel to her chest, and behaving in a nervous manner — was able to get a table at the same cafe without ever being questioned. Perhaps not surprisingly, Chechen women have carried out 8 of the 10 suicide attacks in Moscow.

Each new act of terrorism in this country renews public debate about the phenomenon.  We’re led to believe by the establishment that combats terrorism that we’re doing everything we can to keep Americans safe from those who would destroy innocent life to attempt to advance a political ideal. But the research done by Pape, O’Rourke and McDermit show that we’ve overlooked one important aspect of the problem.  As long as we see only men as society’s violent actors, we open ourselves up to the violence and destruction committed by the half of the population who’ve proven themselves men’s equals in violence.  We’ve known this in the context of domestic abuse for decades; now we know it about terrorist violence.

Perhaps less important but still worthy of note, the researchers also show that the shaming tactics used by women in all walks of life to manipulate men to act in accordance with their wishes are used by women to recruit male terrorists.  “C’mon, be a man!  Blow yourself up and a café too!”

In short, the type of gender awareness promoted by A Voice for Men must be adopted wholesale if we’re to truly combat terrorism.  Women must be seen for what they are – just as violent and deadly as men.  Men must adopt methods for blunting the shaming tactics employed against them by women.

As a postscript, my original piece about the Pape/O’Rourke/McDermit study came with a bit of luck attached.   You see, a mere six days before my article about their work, an Israeli researcher, one Anat Berko, was reported by the newspaper Ha’aretz as entirely exempting female Palestinian terrorists from any responsibility for their murderous ways.  Here’s what I wrote back then:

Amazing as it may seem, Israeli researcher, Anat Berko has managed to ascertain that female suicide bombers aren’t responsible for their acts of terrorism. Indeed, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz quoted Berko as saying,

[W]omen are pushed to carry out a terrorist attack and never choose to do so out of their own free will. There are always personal problems hidden in the background.”

You read that right. Women who blow up others never do so of their own free will. That’s because they have “personal problems.” What are some of those personal problems? Well, divorce is one. A Palestinian woman who’s gotten divorced because she’s unable to bear children has no free will and, according to Berko, has no power to resist the clarion call of terrorism. What Berko thinks about the fact that countless Palestinian women resist that quite nicely, we’re left to guess. For that matter, what she thinks of the Palestinian terrorist woman who’s briefly profiled in the Ha’aretz piece and who clearly has a very strong will, also goes unexplored.

Given her opinions about female terrorists, it must be only a matter of time before Berko’s called as an expert witness in a criminal case against a female terrorist. I can hardly wait. I mean, imagine the scene; a Palestinian woman attempts to detonate a bomb at a crowded bus station in Tel Aviv, but fails. She’s arrested on a variety of charges, but her defense attorney calls Dr. Berko to the witness stand and elicits testimony that the woman had no free will and is therefore innocent of the crime charged. I wonder what the Israeli jury would do with that handy-dandy bit of information. Would they kill her or laugh her out of court? As I say, I can’t wait to find out.

But if that’s her opinion about female killers, what’s her take on the male variety? We didn’t have to ask. Berko is ready with the answer:

“When men become terrorists, the ideological motive is dominant.”

No problem with free will there. Men who do wrong have it; women who do wrong don’t. Simple as that. (2)

Do I have to tell you that Berko’s a feminist?  I thought not.

Remember, this woman’s an Israeli.  She and her countrymen have been subjected to decades of terrorism.  To say the least, it’s a very touchy topic in Israel.  For Berko to pretend, against all that recent history that women, but not men, who kill Israeli civilians in terrorist acts should be given a free pass because they’re upset about their divorce gives an all-new meaning to the term chutzpah.

To be clear, feminists like Berko promote terrorism.  They ask us to understand women in exactly the way Pape, O’Rourke and McDermit show to an absolute certainty we shouldn’t.  They tell us that women aren’t the agents of their own behavior.  They encourage us to believe that women are harmless, not to be feared, not to be suspected.  And it is exactly that mindset that allows female terrorists to kill and maim more effectively than do males.

Aside from the disgraceful dishonesty of that mindset, does it get any worse than that?


(1)    http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=4727

(2)    http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=4726

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